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Hard Lump After Breast Biopsy: Should You Be Concerned?

Medically reviewed by Maybell Nieves, M.D.
Written by Joan Grossman
Posted on October 6, 2023

Having a breast biopsy can be emotionally challenging and anxiety-inducing — particularly if you notice a hard lump afterward. Fortunately, a lump isn’t necessarily an indication of breast cancer — a biopsy itself can cause a temporary lump. Moreover, benign (noncancerous) breast diseases often cause lumps as well.

We’ll cover the basics about breast lumps, how biopsies work, and why you might feel a lump after undergoing a biopsy.

About Breast Lumps

Breast lumps, also known as breast masses, are most common among adult women who haven’t gone through menopause, according to StatPearls, though people of any sex or age can develop breast lumps. More than 25 percent of all women are affected by breast disease at some point in their lives — and 25 percent to 50 percent of breast diseases in adult women are benign. Often, a breast mass is the first symptom of these benign breast diseases, showing up in a mammogram or ultrasound.

Benign breast masses can take many forms, including:

  • Breast cysts — Fluid-filled sacs
  • Fibroadenoma — Fibrous tumors in lobules (milk glands)
  • Fat necrosis — Lumps made of dead fat cells
  • Breast abscesses or infections
  • Hematoma — Blood pooling outside of blood vessels, which can cause a bruise and give skin a spongy, lumpy feel

If your doctor wants to examine tissue from a breast lump, they may order a biopsy.

How a Biopsy Works

Doctors often recommend biopsies if a mammography or ultrasound breast imaging indicates a person may have cancer or if they find a suspicious lump during a breast exam. A biopsy entails taking a sample of tissue from the breast — often under local anesthesia — so that cells can be examined in a laboratory under a microscope. The laboratory will produce a pathology report with definitive information about whether cancer cells are present.

There are several types of breast biopsies, each of which requires a needle or incision — or sometimes both — for collecting samples of breast tissue:

  • Fine-needle aspiration — A sample is removed using a thin, hollow needle
  • Core-needle biopsy, also known as tru-cut biopsy — Uses a larger, thicker needle to remove small cylinders of tissue; sometimes guided by breast ultrasound or MRI with the help of a radiologist
  • Stereotactic breast biopsy — Uses a mammogram to help make a three-dimensional picture of breast tissue
  • Surgical biopsy — Also called an open biopsy, involves making a larger cut in your breast to take out any abnormal areas

Why You Might Feel a Lump After a Biopsy

Whether performed with a needle or incision, a biopsy can injure breast tissue and may cause a hematoma — bleeding, bruising, and swelling — where a tissue sample is collected. You may also experience pain. When bruising occurs, a lump may feel larger than before. In some cases, you may feel a lump for the first time after a biopsy, due to pooled blood from bruising after the procedure.

How To Manage a Lump After a Biopsy

A lump from a biopsy usually takes about a week to go away and will resolve on its own in most cases. Your doctor will advise you on how to care for your breast biopsy site. Sometimes, doctors recommend using an ice pack to help reduce swelling. Over-the-counter painkillers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help reduce discomfort and pain after a biopsy.

To help ensure that breast tissue heals well, your oncology health care team will likely recommend that you don’t lift anything heavier than 5 pounds and that you avoid strenuous activity and exercise for several days.

You should get the results of your biopsy within a few days.

If you’re concerned about symptoms after a biopsy, or if swelling, tenderness, or bleeding from your biopsy persist for more than a week, contact your health care provider about follow-up care.

Emotions Can Run High With a Biopsy

Lots of people feel emotional distress and anxiety before, during, and after a biopsy procedure — particularly while waiting for the results. It’s important to remind yourself that while a hard lump may be worrisome, it’s not a confirmation of cancer.

Take the time you need to manage the psychological stress that can occur after a biopsy. You may need extra rest after a biopsy. If you’re concerned about anxiety, talk to your doctor about how to manage stress with your biopsy. Your doctor can give you a referral for mental health counseling.

Other relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises or mindfulness practices may also help manage stress. A study found that women who listened to guided meditation or music during a biopsy experienced a significant decrease in anxiety, pain, and fatigue after a biopsy.

Find Your Team

MyBCTeam is the social network for people with breast cancer and their loved ones. On MyBCteam, more than 65,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with breast cancer.

Have you experienced a hard lump after a breast biopsy? How long did it take to go away? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

    Posted on October 6, 2023
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    Maybell Nieves, M.D. graduated from Central University of Venezuela, where she completed medical school and general surgery training. Learn more about her here.
    Joan Grossman is a freelance writer, filmmaker, and consultant based in Brooklyn, NY. Learn more about her here.

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